RAPE: HOW VICTIM-SHAMING IS JUST AS BAD

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Let’s consider a very startling possibility: that girl, woman, lady beside you might have been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in time but no matter how close you are, you might never find out.

Why? Hold on, I’ll get to it soon… First, some figures on rape to push this conversation forward.

  1. In the United States of America, 1 out of 6 women have been victims of attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime.
  2. 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police while 98% of sexual offenders will never spend as much as a day in prison.
  3. Approximately 4 out of 5 percent of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
  4. 47% of rapists are either friends or acquaintances.

These figures are just for the USA alone. That’s a country with a security and legal system that’s far better than Nigeria and with an even more outspoken society. The figures are staggering in more developed climes so I wouldn’t even want to consider how bad it is here. It’s absolutely awful and we can’t hide this fact simply because there’s a lack of data.

Why isn’t there adequate data on issues of rape and sexual assault in Nigeria? Simple: victims aren’t really keen on discussing their ordeals here. It’s as if nobody gets assaulted but we all know this isn’t the case.

I needed to draw the above parallel with the United States because Nigeria today is basically the USA of the 1950s in relation to the perception of victims of sexual assault. Consider the Bill Cosby allegations of sexual assault in a timeline dating back to Kristina Ruehli in 1965.

Consider that most of the women didn’t speak out until a damning deposition from 2005, thought to have been confidential as part of the lawsuit settlement was leaked by the New York Times. It was an allegation of sexual assault by Andrea Constand.

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The 35 women aged from their early 20s to 80 who bravely came forward to be pictured for New York magazine and to reveal details of their alleged encounter with Bill Cosby.

In the deposition, Cosby spoke of Constand, but also of other victims, including a 19-year-old model who sent him a poem and ended up on his couch where she pleasured him with lotion. Describing the sexual act he had with Constand, Cosby explained that he believed it to be consensual.

‘I walk her out. She does not look angry. She does not say to me, don’t ever do that again,’ he said. ‘She doesn’t walk out with an attitude of a huff, because I think that I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.’

But why didn’t this women say anything back then? Isn’t it America? Here’s your answer in part:

Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy playmate,  claimed that she and her roommate went out for dinner and drinks with Cosby sometime in 1970, and he allegedly offered her a pill that would cheer her up.

In an interview with The Washington Post in November, she alleged that Cosby forced her to perform oral sex and then, raped her. And she couldn’t speak out for over 40 years because in her own words:

“What kind of credibility did I have? In those days, it was always the rape victim who wound up being victimized. You didn’t want to go to the police. That’s the last thing you wanted to do back then.”

Sound familiar?

It doesn’t help that here, we have a really permissive society regarding how women are treated. In a culture where women are primarily perceived as add-ons to men, it is mostly taken for granted that whatever happens to a woman at the hands of a man is her fault. Here, a woman isn’t an individual perse; she belongs to someone –  her father, elder brothers, family members, husband, boss or some random male on the street. Her body isn’t hers; whatever she does regarding her physical appearance should be in consideration to the male gender. As a result, whatever a man does to a woman is the woman’s fault.

So whenever a woman is assaulted sexually here, the comments that usually follow are:

  • She’s lying. He couldn’t have done it.
  • What was she doing with him alone?
  • Why was she dressed like that? (Never mind the fact that some rape victims are burka-wearing females)
  • How could she walk alone at that time of the day?
  • She shouldn’t have led him on.
  • Why didn’t she stop him?

There’s more but there really isn’t any need to elaborate because these comments are all aimed at blaming the person at the receiving end of the offence – the victim.

Rape and related sexual offences are mostly kept secret because the damage done to the victim is only compounded when reported. Here, it’s more reasonable to keep quiet, lick your wounds and ‘move on’. Talking about it is taboo. There’s no retribution, no punishment. Anyone who reports should expect the ‘customary’  one sided backlash. Whichever way the pendulum swings, the victim suffers more.

A trending topic on social media today is the alleged rape of a twitter user called @sugarbelly some years ago by the son(s) of a former governor of Kogi State, the Late Abubakar Audu. But this isn’t about Sugarbelly at all. A lot has been said about that and it’s quite messy with accusations thrown back and forth. It’s safe to say I don’t know shit so I’ll just leave it be for now; trending topics generate a lot of opinions and I haven’t formed one yet. I probably wouldn’t.

But I do have an opinion on rape and the abuse of women in general – it’s downright condemnable. A few months ago, a teenage girl was raped by a university lecturer, someone her father entrusted her to for assistance with her admission into the University of Lagos.

This is one of the few reported cases; incidences like this rarely get public attention for the aforementioned reasons. I know this because a close family member was almost raped by a relative and it was simply ‘kept in the family’. With the number of assaults perpetrated by people known to the victims, cases rarely get to the police station. Even when they do, nothing is certain.

We need to stop paying lip service to punitive measures on rape. We need to see to it that sexual offenders and not the victims, are made to pay for these sins. Most importantly, we need to stop this despicable trend of victim shaming.

If we must say anything, it is to attack the act and the culprit. Anything else is a disservice to the victim and we’re not really helping anyone.

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#SecSchInNigeria- Time Traveling With Epic Memes

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State High School, Oko-Oba (now Progress College)…

I was in JSS 1, barely a month in when the annual Inter-House Sports competitions took place. It was too early to get involved in anything and I hated competitive sports of any kind back then so I went somewhere else to play ‘Four Posts’ with my new classmates.

After finding a spot where we wouldn’t be disturbed by overzealous teachers and prefects, we all took off our shoes to get comfy. I was wearing a pair of rubber Kito sandals; I dropped my knapsack containing 16 Onward notebooks and took off my shirt, leaving me in my school shorts and undershirt.

Game done, I realised my sandals had developed wings. Mom was definitely gonna kill me this time around. My bag and shirt? Gone too.

Long story short, I found my bag some hundred meters away. The notebooks I hadn’t used were gone. Oh well, I took my half bread and continued my search for my sandals. In the end, I went home with one – Kito, my size. Till today I doubt if it was really mine, it was a jungle out there and they’d succeeded in making an animal out of me (Sharrap, onye ochi).

That was day school. So imagine what I had to go through when I became a boarder. I remember the fight I had with Hamid on the assembly ground at dawn over MY coal iron.

But that’s not why we’re really here (all of you looking for short story, yaa wrong :p).

For those who are Twitter lazy, here’s a compilation of some of the funniest tweets from the epic #SecSchInNigeria trend last week. Check the pictures, read the captions.

Enjoy!

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Mr Osadebe was skilled in the dark arts back then😭😭😭😭😭

Mr Osadebe was skilled in the dark arts back then😭😭😭😭😭

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GONE

Photo Credit: www.zmescience.com
Photo Credit: www.zmescience.com

An uncle of mine died last week.

But I didn’t feel a thing.

I think I should be bummed, hurt, sad and grieving but I’m not. I’m not saying I’m fine; perhaps the feeling that best describes my emotional state at the moment is that of numbness. I just don’t feel a thing.

On the scale of familial feelings of loyalty and empathy, this could make me out as an asshole. I don’t know. People shed tears. I rarely do. When my tears come, most people are already done shedding. At this point, I realise that nothing’s wrong with me – I just happen to grieve differently from most people.

This isn’t really about me as much as a bit of it is. Hold on, we’re getting somewhere.

You see, my uncle and I weren’t really close. We weren’t close, period. I show up at my grandmother’s place and greet him when I see him. He’s not really social and I think that’s one thing we share because he mostly looks like he wants to be left alone. Quiet, easy-going fella, but he’s had a troubled life. He wasn’t disabled or anything but I won’t explain further.

Uncle K had a stroke late on Sunday night and was dead in a few hours. He never got married or had children. He had no love life that I or anyone knew of. No close friends either, he’d greet, smile and move on. Unlike his elder brother, Uncle M, who’s bookish, reserved but still sociable to an extent – he’s the one who named me Spencer – while using me for boxing practice when I’m within reach, just for the fin of it. Or Uncle D, the youngest of them all with whom I enjoy a few drinks while watching football matches – he’s also the best barber I’ve ever known.

And this is why I didn’t feel a thing: I have no memories.

My memories feed my joy or pain. If a random stranger dies right in front of me, I’ll be hurt at the fact that another life is gone but I won’t feel no pain on a personal level. My pain is based on my experiences – stories, conversations, arguments, laughs, a task done together, shared food or drinks, gatherings, etc. I have to remember to feel pain and when there are no memories to feed off from, I’m just numb.

He was buried the same day he died. Uncle K lived with grandma – his mother till he died so I guess it was expedient to get everything out of the way so ‘mummy’ wouldn’t dwell so much on the hurt. I wasn’t there but everyone else was: second cousins, relatives close and far, my mother and her siblings amongst others – my sisters too. In life, what really brings people you care about together are life, death and love.

And this is why I felt that hurt later on – he’s my mother’s younger brother. We’re close and even though I don’t really know how it is, it  still not cool losing anyone, not to even mention a sibling. Growing up together, teenage arguments, birthdays, weddings, precious moments and all that; the pain is brutal. So seeing someone I’m close to thrown into sadness because of a sibling’s death got to me. She was upset that I didn’t show up. I had my reasons and as logical as they might be, it’s best you shut up and play yo-yo with the spittle in your mouth.

On Sunday I went to see granms with my brother and the things she said really cut through me. Sitting right across her, I’ve only felt that way just once (more on this in another post). She’s over 80 and I was gutted that the poor lady felt like she’s the one that should be gone and not her son.

“I’m not questioning God, but I wonder why – with the wonderful life I’ve lived – I’m still alive and my son is gone. I know he’s gone to rest now – he needed it – I’m just wondering why I didn’t get to go first.”

As quiet as he was, Uncle K was a piece of work for granms – she worried about the most so I know she loved him very much. As such I can’t begin to imagine how hurt she is.

No matter how old your kids get to be, they’re still your babies and no parent wishes to go through this. And like I said, this is why I’m hurt – more for them than for myself. It’s nothing extraordinary, it just is.

The thing about empathy is that it doesn’t have to be personal. The pain doesn’t have to be yours before you feel it. We’re all connected one way or another and whatever affects one of us ripples wide enough to affect a lot of us. I wasn’t close to my uncle but my mother was and my grandmother was, as well as other family members that I’m close to, so even though I didn’t feel that pain on a me-him personal basis, I felt it through them.

That’s what makes us family.

HATE SPEECH: WE NEED NEW LAWS

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Okay…let’s get serious shall we.

Two days ago, I came across this screenshot of a series of tweets done by one dude – King With No Crown (@mcvaaey). The subject: the need to kill all Igbos for being ‘sellouts’. He called Igbos a number of unprintable names and called on all ‘well meaning’ Nigerians to embark on a ‘purge’ or ethnic cleansing of sorts.

We’ve always had this tribal e-warfare but never since Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country book drama and Fashola’s deportation of Igbos have we had it this bad. This time it really reeks, like Fani Kayode’s underwear.

Obviously the guy has never heard of Rwanda and Sudan to mention just two. The guy obviously never heard of our own civil war. History isn’t his forte.

These are difficult explanations to come up with. And they’ll stand.

But I’ve got an easier answer: this guy is a bigoted cretin who should be time jumped back to WWII and labelled a Jew. And that goes for the rest of them. Everyone else who would only open their mouths to spew vitriol against people of other tribes, nationalities, faiths, ideological leanings, etc.

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Funny this is that this moron and others like him will still bitch about Boko Haram and wonder why the terrorists act the way they do. Are they any different? Just because they do their nonsense from behind a keypad doesn’t make them any better. And I only feel pity for them. Because they are the first to cry if they land in Russia and someone makes a monkey sound or brandishes a banana at the sight of them.

It’s not just talk. No. Stuff like this can start riots. And they’ll go to church and sing ‘My hands are blessed’ when they’re in fact stained with blood. Some will take communion or say prayers with that same hateful tongue.

It’s sad. really.

And for anyone who really knows me, I can’t just deal with ethnic bullshit. Some of my closest friends aren’t Yoruba. Hell, if I don’t tell you my name or speak Yoruba, you’ll probably think I’m Hausa. My mom is Yoruba, grew up in the North, schooled in the East and her bestie is an Ibibio woman who married a Yoruba man and gave birth to wonderful kids like Seun Olayemi​, Olayemi Oluwatosin​ and their siblings.

This is where I’m going: if I meet an Ibo man who happens to be an asshole, I won’t call him an Ibo asshole. He’s simply a jerk and will be a jerk whether or not he’s from a tribe that isn’t mine. And this is where we need new laws. I’m not a lawyer but I believe our constitution is pretty weak on hate speech. Help me out here Sir Okwudilichukwu Obu​.

In a sane country like the UK or US, the dude that tweeted such nonsense would already be behind bars. Anton Ferdinand accused John Terry for racist remarks on a football pitch and it became not just a football disciplinary issue but a legal one taken up by the authorities. Last year in the US, Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clipers was banned for life and practically stripped of his ownership because he made a snide racist remark against black basketball players. And here’s the clincher, he said it in private.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a tweet, facebook post, blog comment or meme, you’re gonna get what’s coming – just ask Mario Balotelli.

We need these kind of laws here. You can insult all you want but eave race, gender and religion out of it. That way, you can ensure that some moron won’t wake up one day and start killing people that don’t speak his tongue. And when we do have those laws, it’s our duty to make them work. It’s our duty to report such people to the authorities and make them realise that you can’t type hateful stuff about people and hope to get away with it.

Rwanda is pretty pretty now but we can have an awesome Nigeria without going through what they did. Nigeria is. Let Nigeria continue to be. See the headache most Eastern European nations are still having after their split? I want none of that.

Hate isn’t pretty, and its children are bloody ugly.

THIS OUR ‘FLEE AND FEAR’ ELECTIONS…

Okay, it would only make sense if I say this today. And it’s probably gonna be my last post about the presidential elections.

If you’re hoping for relatively free and fair elections in Nigeria, stick to the cities and major towns. Anywhere else is a sham. I don’t know, the PVC and card reader might help – a bit. I hope so. I also hope a lot of heads won’t be bashed in, in the process.

No I am not going to vote. No it isn’t because I don’t want to. It’s because I can’t.

You see, I did my voter registration 4 years ago in Ukanafun Local Government, Akwa Ibom State, Ward 4, Unit 6 precisely. Transferring proved to be hectic and I’m just gonna chill till INEC gets it right. It’s only common sense that people relocate.

Now this isn’t even the point.

Back then I functioned both as a Registration Officer 1 and Presiding Officer. Fortunately, I had to work in my local government and my village home in Ikot Oku Usung happened to be in the same ward 4. A few people already knew me, I taught their children in school even though I was really supposed to be at the Local Government Secretariat.

Registration was a major headache because people would bring 13-year-olds and you dare not question them. “Corper, nsido, you sabi my pikin age pass me ni?” So you shut the hell up and register the kid. I’m not gonna get my head broken for some town I really had no stake in. No. Once I asked my ward supervisor and he said, “Please do, for your own safety,” I registered em all and ate bush meat while at it.

Then elections came and I was still gonna work in Ward 4 but another polling unit. The man who took us there later called me aside into a Qua Iboe Church nearby and offered me 20 grand, 15 for my assistant and 10 for another official. He said the governor just wanted to ensure we were well taken care of. That wasn’t my problem but hey, if you are gonna bribe me, it shouldn’t be inside a church (I remember seeing that same man two Sundays later at the Winners Chapel I used to attend in the town, seated in the corner exclusively reserved for elders – but that’s a story for another day) I think I told him to hold on and let me finish my job first.

I thought it was just us. I was wrong.

Everyone else had been paid! Even agents from opposition parties who now rallied everyone they were canvassing for, to vote the ruling party. He was their man and it didn’t matter if he was in another party. He’s Annang. They’re Annang. He will get 100 percent votes in Annang regions.

Same thing happened at the presidential elections. He’s South-South, they’re South-South. Their kin must get 100 percent. CPC and AC agents rallied their people to give 100 percent to ‘Their Man’. It was a blatant sellout and i saw tribal politics at its best both for state and national level elections. This was for a governor who only came to campaign and didn’t do shit for those people but 200 Naira per voter was all right to sway them. He’s their man!

So I gave up. Wait up sir, I’m coming for our money!

One dude, came over at some point and snatched the box and ran off, the others pursued him and brought it back “den never put anything officer, everything dey there.” At some point they took the ink pad and ballot papers and created a desk for themselves to thumbprint at will -PDP. It was messy. Well I heard the others did the same at their strongholds. Some dudes were there with cutlasses and hoes, “We dey go farm after voting oga. No worry.” Yes sir, by all means. No, nobody is gonna farm on my head. I don’t live here. I won’t pay taxes here. I don’t have a Chihuahua in this fight. I will siddon look and go home to my family when the time comes.

When we got back to the collation centre, I realised some of my colleagues had been badly beaten for being ‘too stubborn.’ Oh oh, na so dem go kill person for matter wey no be my own? Iyo!

Now what also worried me was that there was basically a 100 grand budget for every polling unit per election. We had about 10 per every ward in that LG – 20 wards, about 200 units. Do the maths, the. Do the same for the remaining 29 local government areas. When salaries wasn’t paid on time that month end, I laughed.

It was more violent in some other areas. Some colleagues lost lives. Over what? Bullshit. Sure it was fine in the more accessible areas where the observers camped out. But in the far flung villages, it was something else. The people didn’t know their right or what to do. And this is why I believe that you don’t wait 5 months to the general elections before sensitising people. What do you have 4 years for?

Despite our reports, nothing was canceled. Not even places where friends were beaten up. They wanted 100 Percent, they got it.

It’s all about numbers and those in the cities don’t really count for shit. Now tell me where the bulk of the voters are and you’ll realise that what we have so far is a sham.

Free and fair elections? Not until we install sense 2.0 in our heads in this country. As for the candidates we have, its a shame on us that there seems to be only two to pick from. Darn shame. Why didnt APC go with Rochas and seal the East? Why not KOWA? Ah yes, she’s a woman with no ‘experience’.

Oshi.

Vote wisely, your life isn’t worth losing for this. Friends shouldn’t be lost because of political differences. I hope we get it righter. Receive sense! Amen.

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A LITTLE SOMETHING ON MOTHER-IN-LAWS, CLINGY PARTNERS AND OTHER THINGS IN BETWEEN

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Yeah, smoother and drool over him/her. Why not also pee like a mutt just so we know you're marking territory?

This started out as a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall but I just thought to post it here as well.

And yes, it’s about overbearing mother-in-laws, clingy partners and that type of shit other things in between.

Somehow I realise now, how it’s even us the children and our mom that scold pops that he’s been away from his mom for too long. His maternal family could be a pain and he knew, so he shielded us all with some distance. I remember when mom tells stories of her early years in marriage and how grams would interfere with her other children at every opportunity, including sneaking some girl in under the guise of being a maid.

If anything, I appreciate how she handled it and how I share some of those traits. Ariwo ko ni music – no insults, no long winding arguments or nagging; just this quiet stubbornness that tells the other person to back off. Those early days earned her my grams respect and till date she’s even the one that visits often – more than her husband.

Some women just smother their kids instead of mothering. For me it’s both ways. I’ll run from a girl who seems to be a mommy’s girl too because you won’t seem to do anything right. Nobody likes someone hover over them just because they’re in a relationship with that person’s child. It’s bullshit. If you’ve trained your child well then you’ll have very little to worry about someone who’s dating or married to them.

Sometimes I’m really scared of the kind of parenting we give these days. Always eager to troubleshoot even before there’s trouble. We eliminate every appearance of error and raise kids in a controlled environment – like culturing a specimen in a lab. We forget that we won’t be here forever and this is where I take the Magic School Bus mantra and apply it to raising kids: take chances, make mistakes, get messy. Let them learn but let them know that you’re with them.

If you know you can’t cope with such nonsense, run. You’ll know from the first few encounters. No man or woman is worth that headache and Jesus didn’t die for that kinda ish. Better to have a US drone or spy satellite over you than a hovering MIL.

That said, there are women or men that are like this around their partners (see picture). Makes the whole darn thing even more difficult doesn’t it?

Seriously, check yourself. It might just be that you might be the one that also wants to own him/her by shutting them off from friends and family, people who were there for him before you came into the picture. You can’t possibly make up his entire world. It just doesn’t work that way. They might represent his past and present but if that’s good, who says the past, present and future can’t mesh in this case?

Also, in reverse, who’s to say that the future can’t coexist with the past? It’s all about perspective. You see a husband or wife. They see a son or daughter. Make it work or walk away early. No point tying the knot if you know you won’t be able to live with it.

As for clingy, hovering parents too; sometimes the whole point of teaching your chicks how to fly is that they can leave the nest on their own…eventually.

ONE-0H-7EVEN

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They’d had a wonderful time at Barbies 2.0, a favourite hangout at Ita-Merin, usually frequented by modest boys who wanted to spoil their girlfriends, the yahoo-yahoo internet fraudsters and the rich kids. Barbies had become the favourite spot for students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, rivalled only by Belle, another joint about 500 metres away.

Timi couldn’t wait to celebrate their anniversary which was still a good nine months away so he decided that they’d toast to new beginnings on the day that marked one year since they met. One year during which he was made to chase after a girl who made the others he’s had pale in comparison. One year since they met at the Motion Ground on campus.

Jessica had just finished taking some new photographs that morning and was rifling through the old photos in the photographer’s stall, looking for the ones she’d taken a week ago. She loved tTimig photographs that much; sometimes Timi had to say his battery was low just so he wouldn’t indulge in selfies with her. Sometimes he won; most times he lost both his battery and the anti-selfie battle.

When Timi saw his photograph with Jessica that day, she didn’t just go through it and continue searching for her pictures. She lingered and only lifted her eyes ten seconds later when Timi said, “You so much admire your future boyfriend in the picture. I bet he’ll let you keep that if you ask…nicely.”

Jessica looked from Timi to the picture and back to him before realising that she was indeed staring at the dude in the picture, all six-foot-plus-something of him. His remarkable jawline stood out and the way he pursed his lips as he spoke made her dislike the cockiness in him. But there was softness in his eyes, a certain glint of kindness that belied his physique and it wasn’t something she’d miss. So what if he’s a cocky, kind asshole? Not to be outdone, she shoved the picture back into the pile and continued searching for hers, offering a two-word comeback with a chuckle as she did, “You wish.”

Good, this one didn’t know who he was. Or she knew and was still defiant. In any case, he liked that. He was not just intrigued by her beauty but by her quick wit and calm as she dismissed him. So he waited, and when she was done searching for her picture, he picked out his own from the pile, ran after her and still asked her to keep it. Jessica simply smiled as she took the picture and disappeared into the new Management Sciences building.

Good. Now he knows where she receives her lecture.

They met again at the same building three weeks later. She sure was hard to find and he’d asked around for a while, wondering how such a girl would be so difficult to pinpoint. He was walking by on his way to the AA lecture theatre when he saw her. This time around, he made sure he got her number and dialled it to be sure it wasn’t fake so she won’t slip away again.

And she didn’t. But it didn’t mean he had her. Yet.

They got closer and she finally found out who he was – what he was. Hidden within the calm, wit and humour was the stone cold leader of the fearsome 7even, one of the deadliest cult groups in school. At first she couldn’t reconcile the charming, intelligent Timi with even the lowliest 7even foot soldier. But she figured it out – his going off radar when violent clashes occurred, his selectivity for surroundings and some other clues. It was true. He was. He is.

So Jessica put her foot down. She was so much in love with him already but she swore to ‘zone’ him if he didn’t quit.

“Nobody quits Jessica. You only appear to quit when you leave school or you really quit when you die.”

“You will quit Timi. Find a way, you’re their Number 1. You always find a way. If you don’t then it only means you’ve found a way to lose what you say you really want while holding on to what you never wanted in the first place. I’m not afraid to say that I love you but I’m not afraid to walk away either. It would hurt but I’ll live with knowing I did the right thing. Leaving 7even isn’t only for me, but for your own good as well”

Timi knew she was right. He never really wanted to be in the 7even but they recruited the smartest as well as the strongest with subtle persuasion as well as force and intimidation; creating a deadly mix of brains and brawn in the clan. He rose through the ranks and despite some dissent within and became their leader in the first semester of their final year. Now it was time to leave.

This wasn’t something he could wriggle out of; Jessica meant every word she said.

He called James ‘Jamie the Viper’ Beck, his Number 2 and told him he wanted out. It wasn’t going to be easy because it had never been done before but Viper agreed after a lot of lobbying. It wasn’t cool but it was done.

And their celebration that night was both an acknowledgment of his new lease of life as well as their ‘epic’ moment. He was free. She was finally with him. Nothing else mattered.

After dinner, they got into the car he borrowed from his roommate so he could drive her home. But a student’s car is never to be trusted and a few streets from Jessica’s hall, the car broke down.

They weren’t far off, they would walk. Nothing was going to spoil the wonderful moment they’d just had, not even a broken down car.

But there was something. Sometimes fate takes the most inopportune moments to suck the joy out of people.

As they approached Jessica’s hall, seven burly figures emerged from the shadows.

They knew where he’d been. They knew he was coming. They’d been waiting.

Timi could tell from the scarves around their necks that they were from his clan but he couldn’t recognise them because they were wearing masks. He hailed them. They replied but he knew something was up; the boys never wore masks if they weren’t out to score.

Oh Viper you bloody son of a gun! Fuckin bastard knew I could take three or four down easy.

But it wasn’t Viper. His former right-hand man washed his hands off like Pilate did Jesus. Nobody leaves. Leaving the clan made Viper look weak and the mutineers felt a lesson had to be taught. Forgiveness is a sin.

“Okay guys, I know you’re here to serve a beating. But I won’t make it easy for you; that much I owe myself,” Timi said before turning to Jessica to tell her what she really needed to hear.

“Run.”

As she ran without looking back, the goons – his former goons – took off their masks. No, this wasn’t just a beating but a death sentence. No clan member leaves his face open if there’s going to be a witness. There were four clan members who never liked him and three members he couldn’t recognise – fledglings.

“So this is how it’s going to be? I bet you aren’t following Viper’s orders so you’re gonna kill me and make him think the Scorpions did it. Then you’ll finally have the war I’ve stopped you from having for a while. You better be sure that I’m dead when this is all over tonight. You better be sure…”

He didn’t finish before they attacked.

`                                               ***************************

When Jessica returned with her neighbours, they found six bloodied bodies scattered across the street. They couldn’t make out whether they were alive or dead at first but some faint groans caught their attention. Two of the men were still alive, calling for help; three others were even more messed up. They weren’t moving; the remaining two goons weren’t on the scene, suggesting that they weren’t badly wounded. Timi’s was found farther off from the rest in a pool of blood; his skull had been bashed in from the left side of his head. He wasn’t moving as well. Jessica screamed as she threw herself on the floor and gathered him into her arms checking for any sign of life.

There was no pulse. He wasn’t breathing too. Timi was gone and there was no stopping the piercing wail of anguish that Jessica let out as she realised this.

******************************

The police arrived with an ambulance in tow and proceeded with cleaning up the bodies. Timi and the three other bodies were zipped in bags and carried off to the morgue in the police wagon; the other two injured were carried off in the ambulance to the general hospital.

At the morgue, the coroner examined the bodies and shook his head; this was one brutal fight. Throats and ribs have been crushed and cut; noses broken in such a way that splinters would have been sent up into the brain and there were multiple stab wounds on some bodies. Timi’s head was still bleeding and the coroner wondered why, there was no pulse and his body temperature was zero – he was toast. There was no need to cut anyone up that night and he’ll only do so if the police came over.

All done, the coroner instructed his assistants to put the bodies inside the ‘fridge’. The fridge an assistant would open about four hours later because he heard faint thuds from within.

It was Timi.

*********************************

Time slows down when you’re healing. You want to get over your issues quickly and move on. Time can be both a blessing and a curse; when you’re healing in the flesh, it can be frustrating to wait; to see the holes fill with flesh and the bones mend. And even after waiting, scars remain. What’s worse, time doesn’t seem to close the deepest wounds of the heart.

It took one year for Timi to be discharged from the hospital. His parents wanted every form of therapy done abroad so he was flown there as soon as he was in a stable condition. They mourned in public but rejoiced in private that their only son was alive. To everyone else, he was dead – even Jessica. Dead people aren’t hunted, tracked or killed and as funny as it might sound, the dead are the safest.

After a week at home, Timi headed back to school to see Jessica. People wouldn’t readily recognise him because he wasn’t expected to be alive but he still took extra precaution. Wearing a baseball hat pulled down to cover his face; he stepped out of the car and went to the block of self-contained rooms where Jessica lived. When he got to her door, Timi took a deep breath and knocked, raising his finger to his lips as soon as Jessica opened the door.

Jessica was shocked, but the joy that flooded her was so much more. She leapt into his arms, buried her face in his neck and sobbed quietly.

They talked about everything and anything that happened while he was gone. His friends had rallied impressively; Jamie called often, for weeks he swore he had nothing to do with Timi’s death. She believed him but she wasn’t ready so say anything about her loss or why it happened. She didn’t want to. Still, James kept calling once in a while to see if anyone was bothering her or if she needed anything. Jessica needed to grieve, and she did for months – sometimes with a smile on her face. She had basically shut everyone out when he was gone and buried her head in school work. She was a year behind him so she was now in her finals. Still it was very painful that they had lost a year of each other. But it didn’t matter; nothing mattered. He was there with her, now.

The next morning, Jessica saw Timi off to his car. He couldn’t stay around for long without anyone discovering at some point and it wasn’t time yet. As he started the car to leave, he heard a knock on the window on the passenger’s side. It was Jessica so he wound down.

“One year away and some things still haven’t changed about you, Timi. You’ve got something on your mind and I know it. You won’t move on easily and there’s something you feel a need to do but you don’t know how I’m going to react so you kept quiet.”

Timi locked his gaze with hers for a bit and sighed. He wasn’t shocked that she sniffed him out. He was shocked at the calm, level tone with which she spoke when he knew she was burning from the inside.

“I know, I understand. You renounced your membership of the clan Timi, but some came after you. You showed that you were better, you chose me. You chose love and life over death and violence and they took one year away from us. They almost took everything from me…”

At this point, He knew exactly what she meant.

“There’s three down, four to go. It’s time to finish this circle. Go get them.”